The housing choice voucher program is one of the federal government’s most popular housing programs to assist families with very low-income to afford safe and affordable housing. Since housing assistance is provided on behalf of the family or individual, participants are able to find their own housing, including single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program and is not limited to units located in subsidized housing projects.
Housing choice vouchers are administered locally by Public Housing Commissions (PHCs). The PHCs receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to administer the voucher program.
A family that is issued a housing voucher is responsible for finding suitable housing of the family’s choice where the owner agrees to rent under the program. This unit may include the family’s present residence. Rental units must meet minimum standards of health and safety, by passing a housing quality standards test.
A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the PHC on behalf of the participating family. The family then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program, under certain circumstances.
Who is Eligible?
Eligibility for a housing voucher is based on the total annual gross income and family size. This program is to US citizens and specified categories of non-citizens who have eligible immigration status. In general, the family’s income may not exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which the family chooses to live. A PHC must provide 75 percent of its vouchers to applicants with incomes that do not exceed 30 percent of the area median income.
During the application process, the PHC will collect information about the families income, assets, and family composition. The PHC will verify this information with other local agencies, employers and bank, and will use the information to determine program eligibility and the amount of the housing assistance payment
If the PHC determines that a family is eligible, the PHC will put the family on a waiting list. Once one reaches the top of the waiting list, the PHC will contact the person and issue a housing voucher.
How Do I Apply for this Program?
To apply for a voucher, one must get an application from a Housing Commission. Because Housing Commissions have long waiting lists, they will not accept applications until their waiting list gets low. When a Housing commission accepts applications it is called “open enrollment”. Housing Commissions operate independently of one another. One may be on several waiting lists at the same time.
Below is a list of the Housing Commissions that administer vouchers in our area:
Ferndale Housing Commission
Ferndale, MI 48220
Pontiac Housing Commission
132 Franklin Blvd.
Pontiac, MI 48341
Madison Heights. Housing Commission
300 W. 13 Mile Road
Madison Heights, MI 48071
Southfield Housing Commission
26000 Evergreen Road
Southfield, MI 48076
Detroit Housing Commission
1301 E. Jefferson
Detroit, MI 48207
Plymouth Housing Commission
Plymouth, MI 48170
Oakland County Section 8
P.O. Box 180915
Utica, MI 48318-0915
Southfield Housing Commission
Southfield, MI 48076
Clinton Township Housing Commissions
34947 Village Rd.
Clinton Township, MI 48035
Michigan State Housing Development Authority
735 E. Michigan
Lansing, MI 48912
Mt. Clemens Housing Commission
50 Church St.
Mt. Clemens, MI 48043
Roseville Housing Commission
18330 Eastland St.
Roseville, MI 48066
Section 8 Alert List
Community Housing Network (CHN) provides a valuable service. CHN works with the Housing Commissions to make sure we have open communication and get notice of any open enrollment periods. When one of the Housing Commissions opens to accept applications, we will notify everyone on this alert list. Go to the Community Housing Network’s website to register for this valuable service. Please note that you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription. Without confirming your subscription with this link, you will not receive updates.
PHCs may establish local preferences for selecting applicants from its waiting list. For example, PHCs may give a preference to a family who is (1) living in the PHC specific town, (2) homeless, (3) paying more than 50% of its income for rent, or (4) involuntarily displaced. Families who qualify for any such local preferences move ahead of other families on the list. Each PHA has the discretion to establish local preferences to reflect the housing needs and priorities of its particular community.
The housing choice voucher program places the choice of housing in the hands of the individual family. A very low-income family is selected by the PHA to participate is encouraged to consider several housing choices to secure the best housing for the family needs. A housing voucher holder is advised of the unit size for which they are eligible based on the family’s size and composition.
The housing unit selected by the family must meet an acceptable level of health and safety before the PHC can approve the unit. When the voucher holder finds a unit that they wish to occupy, and reaches an agreement with the landlord over the lease terms, the PHC must inspect the dwelling and determine that the amount of rent requested is reasonable.
The PHC determines a payment standard that is the amount generally needed to rent a moderately-priced dwelling unit in the local housing market and that is used to calculate the amount of housing assistance a family will receive. However the payment standard does not limit and does not affect the amount of rent a landlord may charge or the family may pay. A family which receives a housing voucher can select a unit with a rent that is below or above the payment standard. The housing voucher family must pay 30% of its monthly adjusted gross income for rent and utilities, and if the unit rent is greater than the payment standard the family is required to pay the additional amount. It is important that there is a limit, a family may not pay more than 40% of its adjusted monthly income towards rent.
A family’s housing needs change over time with differences in family size, job locations, and for other reasons. The housing choice voucher program is designed to allow families to move without the loss of housing assistance. As stated earlier, each Housing Commission can make local rules. Some Housing Commissions require a new voucher holder to remain in their catchment area for one year before transferring the voucher to another part of the state or county. Moves are permissible as long as the family notifies the PHC ahead of time, terminates its existing lease within the lease provisions, and finds acceptable alternate housing. A family that wishes to move to another PHC’s jurisdiction must consult with the PHA that currently administers its housing assistance to verify the procedures for moving.
When the voucher holder locates a rental that will accept the voucher, the PHC will conduct a housing quality standard test. Once a PHC approves an eligible family’s housing unit, the family and the landlord sign a lease and, at the same time, the landlord and the PHC sign a Housing Assistance Payments Contract that runs for the same term as the lease. This means that everyone – the tenant, landlord and PHC – has obligations and responsibilities under the voucher program.
Tenant’s Obligations: The tenant is required to pay the security deposit to the landlord. After the first year the landlord may initiate a new lease or allow the family to remain in the unit on a month-to-month lease. When the family is settled in a new home, the family is expected to comply with the lease and the program requirements, pay its share of rent on time, maintain the units in good condition and notify the PHC of any changes in income or family composition.
Landlord’s Obligations: The role of the landlord in the voucher program is to provide decent, safe, and sanitary housing to a tenant at a reasonable rent. The dwelling unit must pass the program’s housing quality standards and be maintained up to those standards as long as the owner receives housing assistance payments. In addition, the landlord is expected to provide the services agreed to as part of the lease signed with the tenant and the contract signed with the PHC.
Housing Commission’s Obligations: The PHC administers the voucher program locally. The PHC provides a family with the housing assistance that enables the family to seek out suitable housing and the PHC enters into a contract with the landlord to provide housing assistance payments on behalf of the family. If the landlord fails to meet the owner’s obligations under the lease, the PHC has the right to terminate assistance payments. The PHC must reexamine the family’s income and composition at least annually and must inspect each unit at least annually to ensure that it meets minimum housing quality standards.
HUD’s Role: To cover the cost of the program, HUD provides funds to allow PHCs to make housing assistance payments on behalf of the families. HUD also pays the PHC a fee for the costs of administering the program. When additional funds become available to assist new families, HUD invites PHCs to submit applications for funds for additional housing vouchers. Applications are then reviewed and funds awarded to the selected PHCs on a competitive basis. HUD monitors PHC administration of the program to ensure program rules are properly followed.
For additional information about the voucher program, contact either the local PHC serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office. There may be a long wait for assistance under the housing voucher program. If the PHC also administers the public housing program, applicants for the housing choice voucher program may also ask to be placed on the waiting list for the public housing program. HUD also administers other subsidized programs and you may obtain a list of programs in your area from the Office of Housing at your local HUD office.